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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

46               THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD

Far removed from this conception is the condition of the many
who have no " casa," but only ghastly walls within which the most
intimate acts of life are exposed upon the pillory. Here there can
be no privacy, no modesty, no gentleness; here there is often not
even light, nor air, nor water. It seems a cruel mockery to intro-
duce here our idea of the home as essential to the education of the
masses, and as furnishing, along with the family, the only solid
basis for the social structure. In doing this we should be not
practical reformers but visionary poets.

Conditions such as I have described make it more decorous,
more hygienic, for these people to take refuge in the street and to
let their children live there. But how often these streets are the
scene of bloodshed, of quarrel, of sights so vile as to be almost
inconceivable. The papers tell us of women pursued and killed
by drunken husbands! Of young girls, with the fear of worse than
death, stoned by low men. Again, we see untellable things—a
wretched woman thrown forth by the drunken men who have
preyed upon her into the gutter. There, when day comes, the
children of the neighbourhood crowd about her like scavengers
about their dead prey, shouting and laughing at the sight of this
wreck of womanhood, kicking her bruised and filthy body as it
lies in the mud of the gutter!

Such spectacles of extreme brutality are possible here at the
very gate of a cosmopolitan city—the mother of civilization and
queen of the fine arts—because of a new fact which was unknown
to past centuries, namely the isolation of the rnasses~of the poor.

In the Middle Ages, leprosy was isolated; th$ Catholics
isolated the Hebrews in the Ghetto; but poverty was never
considered a peril and an infamy so great that it must be
isolated. The homes of the poor were scattered among those of
the rich, and the contrast between these was a commonplace in
literature up to our own,times. Indeed, when I was a child in
the school, teachers, for the purpose of moral education, frequently
resorted to the illustration of the kind princess who sends help to
the poor cottage next ,door, or of the good children from-the